Reframing “Opportunity” in the Interim Season (part 3)

Tim Woodroofby Tim Woodroof
The Opportunity- continued from part 2

As uncomfortable as a ministerial transition can be for a church, the opportunities that open up are exciting.camera_focus

Stable churches are comfortable churches. They don’t reinvent themselves. They don’t “rock the boat.” They don’t ask unnecessary questions. The status quo is protected, even venerated.

But churches in transition don’t have those luxuries. Much of the status quo–what churches assume about themselves, what they are comfortable with–goes out the window when the announcement is made that a minister is leaving.

Transitioning churches–are by definition–uncomfortable. They have to reinvent themselves. Their boat is already rocking. And, to survive and thrive, they must do the difficult work stable churches rarely attempt: look at themselves honestly, ask the right (and the hard) questions, think carefully about the church’s health and effectiveness, reset goals, and heal old wounds.

Consider the opportunities available in the interim season–when leaders are wise enough to take advantage of them. As someone who works with churches in transition all the time, here are the rest my personal top 10 opportunities:

6. Reconciliation. Transitioning churches are more willing to deal with the hard personal and interpersonal issues that accumulate over time in every congregation: the unresolved conflicts that continue to fester; the difficult personalities that make life miserable for leaders; the impossible expectations; the people in the church who have been wounded by the church and need the church’s attention.

Stable churches avoid these matters like the plague. Transitioning churches–recognizing that the effectiveness and longevity of their next minister may well depend on resolving such matters–are more likely to bite the bullet and to do the difficult work that makes for a healthier future.

An interim period gives church leaders “breathing room” to examine church “systems”–the way we do things, the methods we use, the habits we’ve developed, the ruts we’ve fallen into.

7. Convictions. The interim season rouses the church to think more carefully about important matters such as the call of God (on the church and in the life of ministers), the working of the Holy Spirit, the need for leadership among God’s people, the relationship of ministers to the elders and the churches they serve, the role of spiritual gifts, and the missional mindset God wants in his people. Of course, churches could think carefully about such matters any time.

But, stable churches don’t usually dig so deep; there’s no sense of urgency or need. Transitioning churches, on the other hand, are quick to think about these matters because they matter (deeply) during interim seasons.

8. Intentionality. An interim period gives church leaders “breathing room” to examine church “systems”–the way we do things, the methods we use, the habits we’ve developed, the ruts we’ve fallen into. It encourages leaders to ask questions about efficiency (“Are we doing things right?”) and effectiveness (“Are we doing the right things?”).

Transition is a good time to examine a church’s operations (including everything from the church office to elders’ meetings to ministry and monetary management) and implement the kinds of changes that help a church do its business well.

As uncomfortable as a ministerial transition can be for a church, the opportunities that open up are exciting.

9. Outreach. Transitioning churches are far more likely to listen to their communities. Questions like “How can the church grow?” force questions like “What does our community need?” Stable churches tend to be insular–the only people who have a voice at the table are insiders. But, churches in the interim have to consider their “neighbors” as they think about their future. They have to keep the community in mind as they consider their calling and focus and opportunities.

10. Pulpit. The interim period is also the time when a church decides on a new pulpit minister. Churches have the relatively rare opportunity to ask questions like: “What do we need in a minister?”  . . . “What skills are we looking for?” . . . “What kind of minister will truly bless this church?” . . . “Do we need a comforting or a prophetic presence?” . . . “Are we looking for a speaker or an evangelist or a disciple or a community activist?” The decisions made by churches on such matters will affect the future of the church for years to come.

This article will conclude in our next post    Part 1    Part 2   Part 4

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.